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ligible screechings, in what was ology, to describe it. Its effect was claimed to be a foreign tongue, its only just description. though as uttered it was no earthly Precisely the same thing may be language, and to see moustached said of those soul stirring lyrics, that Signore Somebody, and dark-eyed have occasionally found their way, Signorioa Somebody else, go into from some source, into the public convulsions, before some thousand prints, within the last few years. It spectators, as if about to give up the were useless labor to attempt to show ghost, in a great agony of tortured them consistent or inconsistent, with and torturing sound. And even rules, derived from any of the anthey who had any little remains of cient or modern masters. Their efheart and soul left, beneath the moun. fect upon intelligent,—nay, upon all tain-burden of conventionalism, had minds, proves their inspiration. A been compelled, by fear of losing single instance will sufficiently excaste with reputed people of taste, plain our meaning. One of these to affect little less extravagant rap- fugitive poems, the production, if we tures of admiration, that such un. mistake not, of the late Thomas earthly, not to say “angelic” or Hood, a few years since, fell under “divine” notes, could be extorted the notice of one, whose great mind from the human larynx. But when also now sees in the vast vision of a gracious Providence, as if intent eternity. He was one of the most upon presenting anew, some tokens keen-sighted of all men, most elo. of its first perfect work, to a world quent, with nothing to adorn or give that had forsworn their nature, as force to his eloquence, but the cryswell as their God, permitted such tal clearness of his own thought. people to hear human beings sing With sensibilities that vere proof again as of old, “ of mercy and of against all causes that were not in judgment,” with notes, words and reality the most moving, with no sentiments, that were all recognized taste for poetical composition, as at once to be their own language; such, he commenced reading the that were to them the expression of piece, consisting only of a few stanemotions that they had deemed all It presented in its own vivid unutterable ; that “open new foun- and pregnant manner, thoughts tains in the human heart,” as well which he recognized at once to be as stirred the old ; while thus wrought things of his own deep and painful upon by the combined power of experience, and so overcome was soul enkindled melody, and soul he with his own emotions, that, kindling truth, they felt themselves though he repeatedly attempted, he in too awful and holy a presence, to could not for the time read ihe few profane its sanctity by any riotous stanzas through. Call the odd uproar of their own. They felt rhymes, and the irregular versifica. that they could call that “divine,” tion of Thomas Hood by what name with less appearance of blasphemy, the critic pleases; his lines or the since there was so much more in it lines of any other, which will proof man as made in God's image, duce such effects, upon such a mind, and not in the mould of fashion, or are poetry. And it is only in giving after the code of fantastic, though such vivid and touching expression, tyrant custom. Here was music 10 just and true sentiments, that powith no pretensions to " high art.” etry is doing its office, is fulfilling But it needed none; for it was na. its " mission.” And the millions of ture, human nature. It was felt to the poor, the “unfortunate,” the be the outpourings of_free, gener. down-trodden in Britain, have reaous human hearts. They needed son to bless the memory of Thomas no newly coined, or foreign termin. Hood, that, notwithstanding all his apparent trifling with the serious sess more than woman's tenderness, things of life, he did yet, in some and childhood's innocence, and a instances, with a most awful and prophet's inspiration, he should eximploring earnestness, speak in the hibit in his verses, a heart throbbing ears of the rich and mighty, in their with pity for the pangs of any thing behalf: and they have to thank him, that is high enough in the scale of too, for the utterance of what, to being to suffer, much more for the their own breaking hearts, has been highest of God's creatures in this the great and growing agony of world, man; he should shrink with many years. And the future will shuddering horror from the praise show, that he and others, animated of successful crime, and he should with still more of the same spirit of speak of truth and righteousness, as deep sympathy with suffering hu- one sent from God. manity, have not spoken or written God be thanked, that in this, our in vain. Their “fugitive pieces" “ free " America, we have at least will find their way into the gorgeous one poet, who seems thus to have mansion of the millionaire, the an- understood the proper use of the cestral halls of the peer, and the pal- gift and faculty divine.” It would ace of the sovereign, where the not be strange, however, if many presence of their authors would have readers among his own countrymen been deemed a profanation. And need be told that such a man lives, they will enter there, not like the that his name is John G. WHITTIER. frowning and licentious minstrel of It is very certain that many readers old, to smile, to flatter, and to sing of high-wrought fiction, many weepof love ; but to cry, like the voice, ers over unreal sorrows, many symthought to have been heard by the pathizers with ideal suffering, many conscience-smitten Macbeth, to the haters of imaginary monsters, many fair lady, reclining listlessly on the fair singers of songs conceived in silken divan, and to the proud lord, the prurient brain of the profligate, whose untasked mind is weary with have never known with what earnthe burden of finding its own diver. est and soul-kindling words, this qui. sion; “ sleep no more, for the bag. et man of peace has poured out his gard hand of cold and hungering own deep and deploring commiserpoverty, murders the sleep of groan- ation of their great sorrow, into ing millions. The toilers in garrets, whose souls the torturing iron of bonin cellars, in mud hovels, fever. dage has been long and pestilently smitten and hunger-mad, sleep not. driven. Certain it is that many such Lean famine, provoked and almost readers have never learned to symnecessitated crime and despairing pathise with this Friend poet, in the suicide, sleep not. How canst lofty and defiant indignation, with thou ?” Hood's “Song of the which he has hurled his just and Shirt" is still thus speaking, though fiery rebuke, in the face of the foul its author is dead. And it is the ap. spirit of sect, and selfishness, and propriate office of poetry, thus to iron-hearted wrong. And yet, as give utterance to the deep woe of the world goes, it is no very strange the dumb millions, who can only thing that Whittier's Poems, which sigh and weep in expression of their are but the written emotions of a misery. It is its office, like the Gos- most generous and lofty soul, should pel, to speak for the poor, the heart seldom find their way, in embossed broken, the comfortless, and not covers and embellished leaves, to simply, to pander to the luxuries and the parlor table or the drawing room vices of those to whom truth is ever cabinet. For it is for the most part, a stern and rebuking messenger. If artificial, affected emotion, that is the poet, as is claimed for him, pos- studied, and practiced, and exhibited
there ; not that which comes, burst- to all just and generous feeling. ing like a fire fountain, from a heart We know nothing of the physical thrilling with sympathy for all that mold of this J. G. Whittier; but is nearest and deepest, and most ac- if he can speak his poems, breathing tual in human woe. Many a gentle into the delivery the same living fire mother, who listens with tears to her which is embodied in them, and if daughter at her piano, singing the he will do it, even in the strongholds Peri's" Farewell to Araby's daugh- of conventionalism, in the hearing ter," or a legend of some hopeless of “ brave men and fair women, maiden repining in unrequited love, the former may restrain their in. centuries ago, amid the loathed lux. dignation at the wrong upon which uries of feudal halls, in Andalusia he pours his scathing reproof, and or old Castile, would be ashamed to the latter may forbid their tears to have that same adored child of hers, flow for the suffering which he comlearn and sing in the presence of miserates, if they can. her visitors, “ The Farewell of a And here we apply one of the Virginia slave mother to her daugh. surest tests of the genuineness of all ters, sold into southern bondage.” poetical composition. It should be And not because the latter is want such that it can be spoken, and that ing in poetical sentiment, or in when well spoken, its successive equally touching and beautiful ex. thoughts, its unfolding meaning, will pression. The difference is, that tell upon the mind of the hearer, the one is the cold, though glittering like each well aimed shot of the can. frost-work of fiction, while the oth- nonier, against a wall that has aler is near, present, conscience-smi- ready been shaken, and is falling, ting truth. Therefore it is, that the stone by stone. Poetry, if it be one must be received with ecstacies worthy of the name, loses more than of admiration, while the other must half of its power when deprived of be proscribed and exiled from the the accompaniment of the voice. realm where custom, and prejudice, The poet even now is under license and self-styled respectability, hold to speak of himself as a singer, and their tyrani sway. The despairing in the olden time, when his profes. wail of the slave mother pierces the sion and even the present producheart to the depth where the sense tions in his art received their charof duty dwells—the ballad reaches acter, he did actually deliver, not no farther than the nervous, hysteri. mumble, and mouth, and barbarize, cal region of sentiment. The for- under the pretence of singing his mer rouses emotion, which struggles own verse. And for any one in to vent itself, in noble and benevo- these days aspiring to the name of lent action. The latter excites feel. poet, to write so obscurely, or with ing, only to send it abroad in listless sentiments appealing so little to acdissipation over far remote time, tual convictions and experience in and distance, and uncertainty ; while the human heart, as that his lines the starving poor shiver in “un cannot be rendered doubly effective tended raggedness” within hearing by delivery, is for him to show himof that song, and the weary bond- seif unfit for his profession. And man wears his chain in the same to attempt to appreciate the full force land, with his groans unheeded and of the most true and essential poehis wrongs unredressed. And yet try, by only glancing the eye sithe Farewell of the Virginian mother, lently over the page whereon it is and many similar productions of the inscribed, is like attempting to feel same writer, are not without their the power and beauty of the Oratorio power to move, even such hearts as of the Messiah, or of the Creation, have long been well nigh insensible by reading its notes silently. He
who is already a master, may do ply to complete a stanza, or to give omething near this, even in music. an appearance of depth and mysiery He can ascertain what emotion the to the meaning, or to match a rhyme, piece is fitted to awaken, but he but because they carry onward, re. must hear it, in order that that emo- sistlessly, the fire and impetuosity tion may be aroused to any thing of the thought. They do not seem like its full strength even in his own to have been culled out from dic. mind. And so it is with poetry. tionaries, or gathered up from anThe poem which is so refined, or so cient ballad readings, or to have reobscure, or so little within the range ceived their collocation and shades of human thought, as that it can not of meaning from the idioms of a be read aloud, and be rendered foreign language. They seem to doubly impressive by such reading, the reader, rather to have been the is too much like the music which is result of a first and instinctive choice so ethereal, or so much the “phan- from the language that is now living tasm of sound,” as that it can not be in the heart, and speaking on the exhibited in actual performance, but tongue, of the great Saxon people ; must dissolve and die from rude and consequently, they carry their contact with instruments, or the or- meaning to the heart. There are gans of the human voice. Notwith. no expressions here, fitted only to standing the judgment of some crit: play in misty gyration around the ics, whose vocabulary for the de- region of fancy or conjecture. And scription of nonentities is well nigh consequently, whatever the world unlimited and overwhelming, we may say, justly or unjustly, of these must believe that such music and poems, their author will never need such oetry, are as yet unwritten. to raise that common, deprecatory At any rate, there is none of either cry of nuddy-brained writers, writhin this little volume, entitled, “Voices ing under criticism, they are not of Freedom.” But of real melody, understood.' Would that the poets vigorous, stirring thought, such as of coming generations would take leads even the silent reader, who has example in this, as well as some any heart in him, to spring involun. other respects, from “Friend” Whittarily erect, and set himself in the tier. Surely, the last half century attitude and act of delivery, there is has furnished the world with “cloud. much. And we think it would do land” and “dream-land” enough, good to some grave and reverend to practice speculation and metagentlemen, who seem to have learo. physical knight-errantry upon, for ed no other method of pronouncing all time to come. Would that hererythmetical lines, than a certain after, authors would spare us the ne“ inarticulate slumberous mumble- cessity of witnessing the vain effort ment,” to read the book through of their minds to bring forth thoughts aloud, and to endeavor to infuse into which they deem too great for extheir own tones and enunciation, pression—that they would learo, in some little of the life, soul, and en- the third heaven of their own fancy, ergy, which breathe and burn in the the unspeakable visions and voices poems themselves.
which they struggle, all ineffectualThe author also deserves much ly, to report to us, poor inhabitants praise for his happy choice of lan- of this plain matter-of-fact world. guage. And very much in this lies There is another, far more importhe secret of his great strength-of tant, particular in which we would the fact that his poems can be read, give this author our most decided and delivered so effectively. He commendation. His sympathies are makes use of none but vigorous, in- with the age in which he lives, for telligible, truth-telling words. They the human beings that are living, seem to have been chosen, not sim- toiling, suffering, sinning, around bim. He does not seem to have had thought it unfitting that they been possessed by that most com- should so write as 10 be read and mon, yet most mistaken notion of understood by their cotemporaries, poets, that in order 10 write what would they be read by us? Is not shall live after them, they must keep the present momentarily becoming themselves aloof from the interests, the past, and as distance throws its the sentiments and the actual, every. enchanıment over its wide abyss of day life, of their own time. They forgetfulness and uncertainty, will think they must vindicate their claim it not become, in the estimate of to the name of prophel, or bard, by ages yet to succeed, far more the ever reaching forih, with anxious region of poetry, the haunt of imand empty grasping, for the unseen, agination, ihe golden realm of ideal the unattained, "the everlasting to beauty, than their own practical, be that hath been." And thus when mechanical present? And what the future becomes the present, and names shall then be more surely they are numbered with the genera- preserved, from the all engulfing tions of the past, their works shall abyss of the past, than those, who still live, and exert a controlling in- have enshrined in their clear and fluence over the thoughts, and the glowing thoughts, the most vivid and more spiritual life, of the genera- truthful representation of that adtions succeeding. Vain dreamers! mired and studied period. And Could they even speak of the fu- above all, if it shall be, as we trust ture with oracular authority ; of in God and in truth it shall, that at what worth, would their imperfect some future time, the yoke of bondand enigmatical responses be, to an age shall be listed from human limbs age which can look on the reality ? and human souls; the narrow and And besides, are not the most en- covetous spirit of sect, and creed, grossing subjects of thought and and all uncharitableness, shall lose feeling among all men, few in num- its predominant sway, and whatever ber, and sinilar in character? And is most just, and true, and godlike, will not the poet best vindicate his in principle and in action, shall be title to immortality, by the variety, most admired and applauded; whose vigor, or power, of his exhibition of names will then be gathered out them? It is much the same thing from the dark and selfish past, to be in its most essential particulars, to cherished in the most honored relive this life of ours, in all times. membrance, if not those, who, in And he who can draw no poetry the midst of the most hollow pretenfrom human life, much as it can be sion, beartlessness and gross iniquiobserved and is experienced wher- ty, spoke with the most earnest and ever men are, such as it must be thrilling words, in rebuke of wrong, with all its joys and sorrows and in. in defense of the helpless, in support finite responsibilities, is no poet. If of all that is even most true, and then, any would both acquire fame, real and lasting? And if this shall and accomplish good to man, by really be the principle, upon which this species of writing, and thus be distant posterity will revere or conread and revered in other times, let demn those who have gone before them imbue their verse with the them, then ceriainly our author has growing spirit, the toiling, struggling a fair prospect of receiving much of life, of their own age.
So have their honor, and what is more, if it the sons of fame done in all the come from the good, much of their past. Those that are read, and will gratitude. be read, by generations to come, These poems deserve commend. are those that spoke most truthfully ation also, because they not only of their own time. What if they sympathize with the age in which Vol. VI.